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Running for $240/Day

I went out for my morning run like any other day. I ran along the waterfront, listening to This American Life for a while before continuing in silence for the second half.

Five miles later, I was home and ready for breakfast. I had also just earned $90. From my run.

I don’t mean I earned some kind of passive income back home while I happened to be out running. I mean the exercise itself paid off in a literal way.

Later that afternoon, I made a few changes to my shoes (more on that shortly)—and the next day, I made $240.

Let me explain….

Introducing STEPN, the Move-to-Earn Fitness App

STEPN is a web3, play-to-earn (P2E) app and microeconomy.

You buy virtual sneakers (NFTs) and then earn money by walking or running every day. Think of it like Fitbit, but with profit-sharing.

Note: I have no affiliation with STEPN and receive no benefit from writing this post.

I’d seen a couple of people posting about STEPN, but I didn’t pay much attention until I came across a post by Nat Eliason. I consider this the definitive article about earning money with STEPN, as it goes into a ton of detail.

If you’re interested in trying it out yourself, I recommend carefully reading the post and subscribing to Nat’s paid newsletter. He does good work.

How to Get Set Up with STEPN

If you too would like to earn hundreds of dollars for your daily run or walk, there are a few things you’ll need.

First, you’ll need money. There’s a reason why play-to-earn is sometimes called pay-to-earn. Usually I hate the expression “it takes money to make money” (I wrote The $100 Startup after all, and there are lots of businesses you can start for almost nothing), but in this case, it does in fact take money to make money.

How much money? A pair of virtual sneakers starts around $1,100.

When I picked up my first pair, I thought, “These are definitely the most expensive shoes I’ve ever bought … and they’re not even real!” Life in the matrix is wild.

You can earn with a single pair, but—naturally—you earn more with more shoes. After I got my first pair, I went for a short run around the neighborhood. Even with only partial energy (the app caps you on a maximum amount each day, and it recharges throughout the day), I earned $6.

I did the calculations. With full energy and a bit of leveling-up, I could see that my earnings would be around $40/day for my first pair.

Whoo hoo! I was now ready to retire to NIKE headquarters buy more sneakers and ramp up the collection.

Over the next few days, following Nat’s advice and doing some digging of my own to make sure I wasn’t more insane than usual, I upgraded my virtual closet to nine pairs of sneakers. Nine is the optimal number, because you earn a big multiple of daily earnings with nine (but not nearly as much with more). ⬇️

The bottom line: I spent $15,000 on virtual sneakers, and now I’m earning $200-350 a day from them. Every day.

I know, I know … $15k on fake sneakers, what’s wrong with me? But also: I just need to get to ROI, where I’ve essentially paid back my investment, and then these fake sneakers can continue making real money for me with every run.

That’s the idea, anyway. It won’t continue forever, so the challenge is to see how far it can go. I guess we’ll find out soon enough!

Solana and an Activation Code

Two more things before you get started. You can’t just walk into the STEPN virtual marketplace with a suitcase of cash, or even your credit card.

You need to have Solana, the currency used to buy sneakers in the marketplace, and you need to transfer it from your wallet (or the exchange where you bought it, like Coinbase or into the STEPN app.

By the way, STEPN is committed to carbon neutrality, and energy costs are very low. (Just like with DeFi Kingdoms, which is built on the Harmony blockchain. For both projects, transactions cost a tiny amount of money, in comparison to the huge fees on Ethereum.)

Once you have some Solana, you’re almost there. But there’s one more thing: you need an activation code. StepN limits these, so getting one can be a marathon of its own.

  • The easiest way is to know someone who’s an active user. But you probably do! There are 40,000 active daily users at the moment, and more than 200,000 people in the Discord. Ask around.
  • Every day, STEPN releases 1,000 codes at 1pm UTC. Or at least, they say they do—whenever I looked, the codes were gone.
  • I tried asking on Twitter, but all that I happened was I got a bunch of DMs from scammers.
  • Finally, activation codes are for sale by enterprising hawkers. Selling or busying codes is against StepN’s rules, and they might ban your account if they find out. (Also, you might get scammed by someone offering to sell you one.) So do this at your own risk and as a last resort.

Bottom line, you’ll need an activation code and at least 12-14 SOL (around $1,200 USD) to get started. Once you’re in, you transfer the SOL to an in-app wallet, where you can then transfer it again (complicated) to another wallet used for spending.

Having made it this far—slaying the dragon, finding the six mystical runes, etc.—you can now buy your own pair of virtual shoes. And then you can make CASH MONEY with those shoes, bitches!!*

*Money is actually paid in GST, the game’s token. But you can easily convert GST to USDC, or just back into SOL and transfer it out of STEPN.

“This is so weird, where does the money come from?”

Well, this could be a long answer that includes a primer on cryptocurrency, how money is only as real as people decide it is, and so on. But let’s save that for now.

Ultimately the money comes from other players, just like with any other game. The difference is who keeps all that money.

Consider a game such as Fortnite. This is a pretty terrible game (in my biased opinion) that nevertheless attracts millions of players every day. Many of these players spend lots of money to purchase costumes to wear while they are shooting other players.

We’re talking a huge amount of money—something like $2 BILLION DOLLARS last year.

Guess who keeps all that money? Hint: it’s not the players. It’s actually the mega-corporation that runs Fortnite and other games. Mwaa ha ha ha ha.

Play-to-earn, also known as GameFi, wants to change that. The people who make these kinds of projects need to make money, of course. But they don’t need all of it, and if the system is designed to grow by user referral, then users should keep some of the value for themselves.

That’s it in a nutshell, or at least a simplified version. If you want to join me in STEPN, be sure to do your own research before jumping in. There’s a white paper, a lite paper, and a subreddit with lots of user experiences to get you started.

Too Good to Be True?

Like any good Ponzi scheme DeFi project, the money keeps flowing as long as more people keep joining. At some point, the growth rate slows down and the economy changes.

After that, it will either crash and burn or simply adjust to a lower-paying model, where you can still earn for your activity, just not as much as current rates.

Again, Nat’s article goes into this in much more detail.

Personally I figure I’m getting in at a good time (and you are too, at least if you’re reading this relatively soon after it goes up) and I should able to earn out my initial investment.

Whatever happens after that, well, it’s free money! For running! Which I already do every day. Now I’ll just do it as a side job that pays very well.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed, this post isn’t financial advice, etc. And sadly, there is no referral program and I don’t do sponsored posts, so I don’t earn anything by telling you about it.


At the start of this year I committed to putting at least half of my income into alternative investments, including DeFi Kingdoms and a few other projects. It’s been an exciting time so far, with lots of ups and downs just a few months in.

I’m enjoying the journey and will be writing a book about these things as I go along.

More to come in a future post … for now, stay safe out there! I need to wrap this up so I can head out for my monetized run.


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